What Can We Do to Clear Fear? 9 Steps to Calm
With the Coronavirus making its relentless sweep across the world, we are in a time of extreme uncertainty. Anxiety, worry, stress and depression are on the rise. We don’t know what the future holds, but we are thinking it isn’t looking very bright. We feel hopeless, helpless, scared, and angry. How could this be happening? Why? What can I do to protect myself? How long will this last? Are my kids safe? How will I make it financially? Do I have enough food? Will I get sick? How sick? Will my parents make it? Will the hospital have a bed for me? Countless questions are running in our head. To make matters worse, we don’t see any end in sight. It is not like there is some set date when things will get better. There are predictions of when it might get better, but it is no time soon. And there are no guarantees.
So, what can we do? How can we make it through this time in a peaceful way? It all comes down to what we think about this situation. Perception is everything. How we perceive this situation can either make us the most anxious, stressed out person or the most peaceful, calm person. Believe it or not, our stress level doesn’t have much to do with the external situation. It actually has everything to do with our mind and how we perceive the situation.
Most of the time we operate oblivious to the fact that our mind is controlling us. We don’t stop to see that we don’t have to believe our mind. We have that right to think whatever we want about a situation. Our mind is actually just an instrument of perception. We can choose to use our mind, just like we use our body. We use our hand to pick up things we like, and avoid or push away things we don't like. We can use our mind in the same way. But we don’t know this. Or even if we do know this, we do not act upon this knowledge. For example, if our mind starts telling us some story about how bad things are going to get, or how bad things are now, we don’t have to let it disturb our peace. We can thank the mind for doing its thing, which is to react to external stimuli. But then we can use our intelligence to decide how we want to react.
We can use our intelligence to calm our mind down. Think of our mind as a small child that needs a nurturing, attentive, level-headed parent. So, we can take our mind by the hand and say something like, “Oh my dear, come here. Let me give you a hug. I am so sorry to see you in anxiety. I know you are feeling nervous about the future since you just lost your job. This really sucks. But what has happened, has happened. And there is not much we can do about it now. Except to accept the situation. We will figure something out. Don’t worry.” This seems simple, but it is not so easy when we are feeling emotional. It is very difficult to stop the emotional train. Try it. When you are feeling very emotional, trying to stop that emotion feels like standing on train tracks and trying to stop the train coming at you with your feeble arms. Our emotions are very strong, and they have been tormenting many of us for years. In fact some of us don’t even realize it anymore. We think it is normal to be in anxiety, or chronic fear. We can’t remember what it feels like to be truly peaceful. Worse yet, others are in denial of their troubled mind. They say that they are peaceful or happy, when they are not. And then they go on torturing everyone around them, due to their lack of awareness. I'm sure we all know someone like that in our life. But that is a different story for a different blog. For now, let's focus on working with our mind.
Many people avoid working with their mind directly for the whole life. However, we can see this pandemic as a wonderful opportunity to get to know our mind at a deeper level. We do all kinds of things to work with our body, so why not do the same for our much-neglected mind? Anyway, sooner or later, our mind needs to be worked with if we want lasting peace in our lives. So why not cease this opportunity and get to work?!
Here are some simple steps to calm your mind.
For best results, make this your daily routine for 30 days.
1. Eye Gazing. In the morning, look in the mirror. Gaze into your eyes and hold the gaze for one minute. Look deeply. Look beyond the wrinkles, freckles, pimples. Your beauty is beyond the skin. What do you see in your precious eyes? Name your feeling. Then nurture it. Validate that feeling. It is perfectly fine to be feeling whatever it is that you are feeling.
2. Self-Massage. The sense of touch is very important for calming the nervous system. Take some massage oil and warm it up. Then massage your feet. Free-form massage is best. Get to know your feet. Where is the pain? Focus on those areas.
3. Breathing. When we are anxious, our breathing becomes very shallow. Close your eyes, relax your shoulders, and take deep belly breaths to release tension. Do for 3 minutes.
4. Aromatherapy. Essential oils have nature’s intelligence packed in their molecules. What that means is that they know how to calm our mind. All we have to do is smell them and the rest is history. Try diffusing or applying topically: lavender, peppermint, sandalwood, rose or chamomile.
5. Journaling. Each day, write a few lines. It doesn’t have to be a lot. The key is to answer this one question: How am I feeling? Most of us never do this, and that is where the problem begins. We don’t acknowledge our own feelings. Use a Feelings Wheel to increase your feelings vocabulary. If you don’t have a feelings wheel, you can google “feelings wheel” and download for free the one that you like.
6. Thought Restructuring. Try to catch your thoughts that are not serving you. Write the thought down and then make lemonade out of lemons. In other words, turn that unhelpful thought into a thought that makes you feel peaceful. Don’t lie to yourself by painting the picture in a more positive light than it is. But try to restructure it in a way that so you can feel calm and positive about it. There is always a silver lining. You just have to find it!
7. Practice Gratitude. Our mind tends to focus on what we don’t have, what we have lost, or might lose. That is not helpful. Think of what you have right now. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, make a list of everything you do have. Let yourself feel grateful for that.
8. Help Others. When we feel anxious or fearful, we are focused on our self. Even if our anxiety is about another person. Still, if we inspect our anxiety closely, we will see that at the root, it is selfish. We are worried for their health because we don’t want to see them suffer. Why? Because we will lose them. And that will be painful for us. The trick with helping others is to do so without attachment. That means you help for the sake of helping, and you are not attached to the result of your helping. If the other does not thank you or appreciate you, that is okay. Make a list of people whom you can think of who might benefit from your help in some way. There are always people worse off than you. Send them an email or message offering your help.
9. Remember God. Often times when we are in fear, we feel that God has abandoned us. We think, "What kind of God could do such a thing to us?" We feel angry at God, or we stop believing in Him. The thing is that God gave us life. And with that life, he also gave us free will. It was human beings who used their free will to kill and eat animals. To exploit mother nature. Not God. He didn't make us do these things. He gave us intelligence. And it is our choice to use it or not. When we have intelligence, we respect mother earth and all of her creation, as living beings. Just like ourselves. When we operate in this way, the system stays in balance and we do not suffer. We humans used our free will to create this pandemic. And now we blame God. There is another way to remember God. We can appreciate Him for all that he has given us. Including time to learn from our mistakes, change our mind, and grow in the direction towards Him. Appreciate God's presence in our lives by thanking Him directly. You can even write Him a love letter, thanking Him for all of the greatness he has bestowed upon you. For this human life is very, very precious.